Spurs coach Gregg Popovich opted to hold four of his top players - Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green - out of tonight's game, citing fatigue.
This certainly isn't the first time Coach Pop has held players out of games; he generally treats the regular season as a necessary evil - an obligation that he has to deal with on the way to the playoffs. And given his record over the years, it's hard to argue with that philosophy.
Only problem? Tonight's game is one of just two on the schedule... a high-profile matchup in Miami, with TNT set to broadcast the whole shebang to the entire country. And NBA commissioner David Stern gets testy when his beloved television partners get stuck with a sub-par product.
Stern has already issued a statement, saying, "I apologize to all NBA fans. This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming."
This is where things get ugly.
Sure, Popovich's move is less-than-cool... particularly if the benchings were his way of protesting the Spurs' early-season road schedule, as some have suggested. To be fair, Pop flatly denies that; he told reporters his decision was made based on the schedule alone, and that plans to sit key players have been in place since the schedule was released. And let's be abundantly clear - there's no rule against that. But he certainly should have anticipated this sort of reaction from the commish, especially when TNT started running special promotions for the game and even sent Charles Barkley to work the broadcast in person.
If Stern does penalize San Antonio for this, he'll create a very dangerous precedent. What happens if, say, Kobe Bryant or Carmelo Anthony sprains an ankle before the Knicks and Lakers play on Christmas Day? Will the league office need to review their MRIs before allowing the all-stars to sit out?